Sunday, March 23, 2014

Green Bitcoin Mining - Sure. But only for Funsies (Part 1)

Some time ago I had started mining bitcoins on a laptop. I didn't get anywhere with it. Recently though a friend and I were talking about it and it rekindled my interest in cryptocurrency. He is working with a nice computer running a GTX 770 which should turn out over 100 Mega-hashes per second. Unfortunately, my new PC is only running a GTX 650, although good enough for me to play games with, results in less than 100 Kilo-hashes per second. Currently we're mining for Litecoins but I will be building a new rig solely for mining for bitcoins but there's a catch. I want to do it GREEN.

The problem is that mining requires high end gear to become somewhat successful but gear can be very expensive. It also requires lots of electricity to run these rigs. Many mining rigs have multiple video cards to churn out as many hashes per second they can. Some people have gone so far as to set up rooms full of hardware solely to mine bitcoins. I can't afford to throw big money into high end video cards, that I won't be playing games on, just to see if I can break even. However, bitcoin mining was changed when devices called application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) cards came into play. They mine more efficiently than say a GPU and much better than a CPU.

I recently found out about these ASIC cards which are relatively cheap (about $30 on Amazon right now). In addition to these cards, it turns out people got smart with these cards and found a way to mine bitcoins for a lot cheaper; a full rig can be done for a quarter of the price of the current preferred mining video card, the Radeon R9 290. By combining a Raspberry Pi (a very small and very cheap computer), a powered USB hub, a USB fan (to cool the ASIC cards), a special Linux distro call MinePeon and one of these ASIC miners you have a starter mining rig for about $105 (add shipping costs to that). This is where I will be heading in my quest for GREEN Bitcoins.

My plan. Acquire all the listed hardware from above then power it through green energy methods. I know the Raspberry Pi can be run from just about any USB port so powering it by solar panels will be easy. The hard part will be powering the hub. The hub will be powering the ASIC card and the fan and if I add any additional ASIC cards, those as well. I'm not sure how much power I will need to generate yet but with several cards less than 100 watts is likely.

We shall see.


My buddy decided to order two ASIC cards. He got the AntMiner U2 which output around 2 GigaHashes per second per card; total of 4 GH/s. After operating for about 2 days, he is pulling in around .0007 Bitcoins per day. At the current exchange rate (around $560 per coin) it will take him about 4 years to break even on hardware. Estimated, he will need around 8 cards (under $40 a pop) to make a Bitcoin in a year.

If your going into bitcoin mining, expect to spend around $200 to $400 and try to get around 20 to 30 GH/s to make bitcoins quickly. Remember, the difficulty of each block will go up over time.

Additional note, one of the block erupters at 330 MH/s will take about 70 years to break even on hardware. You'll need LOTS of them. Maybe if you're lucky someone will pay for all your gear (and maybe pay your electric bill) and not expect anything in return. 


Update 2:


I'm not sure this is all worth it. The cost of green energy hardware like solar panels or wind turbines appears to be high, plus you need to buy good miners and quite a few of them to offset costs if you want a quick payout; if it can be done. I'm just not sure that it's worth it but there is another blogger that was able to put some money into a similar project using solar panels. He says he was able to break even on his miners but he still had to pay for the panels and related hardware. Check out his findings at Wolfnexus.

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